ACROSS THE U.S. THIS year, about 500,000 people will learn they have Alzheimer’s disease. If that happens to you or someone you love, you won’t be happy about it, even if it confirms what you’ve long suspected. This is the illness Americans fear most, even more than cancer or AIDS. Dementia has many types, including Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body disease and others. They all cause a continuous, ultimately fatal decline in many functions, including memory, planning, speech and ultimately walking and even swallowing. We have no cure, and no reasonable expectation that one is around the corner. For this reason, some doctors still choose not to tell patients that they have dementia. It’s hard to excuse this approach – a person has a right to know about their health, and someone with dementia has many challenges ahead. Planning can ease later burdens – and even make room for happiness.
Dementia runs in my family, so I am at risk as I age. Here are some things I’ve thought about that you may want to think about, too.